Mayor trying to find home for alligator with strange ties to Belen

New Mexico

BELEN, N.M. (KRQE) – One New Mexico mayor is trying to figure out what to do with an odd piece of his city’s history. A former resident recently gave him a stuffed alligator, and the story behind it is pretty bizarre.

“We always played in the ditch and went swimming in the ditch and never thought about an alligator being in the ditch,” says John Craig. But this alligator learned the hard way, ditches are deadly in Belen.

“It’s kind of a mystery where this one came from,” says Mayor Jerah Cordova.

John Craig says he was there 24 years ago when a Middle Rio Grande Conservancy crew found the alligator while cleaning the ditch near his family’s property along Highway 314 in Belen.

“As it was going by doing its thing, one of the guys says, ‘Hey what’s that?’ and we could see something moving in the mud,” Craig says.

Craig says the gator eventually stopped moving.

“So we all grabbed the alligator put him in the back of the truck, and we were all standing around the truck checking him out, looking at how big he was, just curious, and about that time he opened his eyes and started biting that cable in the back of the truck,” Craig says.

The conservancy decided to drive the alligator to the BioPark, but the animal died on the way. Belen Mayor Jerah Cordova says the gator was stuffed and eventually given to one of the employees who found it when he retired.

“He was moving out of town and he decided, at that point he decided he wanted to leave it with the people of Belen,” Cordova says.

Cordova says he’s had the gator for about week. Right now, it’s sitting in the middle of his living room. He hopes to find it a good home.

“I’m trying to find a museum locally that wants to take it. We do have the Belen Harvey House that’s got a lot of Belen memorabilia, so I’m hoping it will go there,” Cordova says.

But if that doesn’t work out, “I don’t know who else was here that day that we found that alligator. I don’t remember the other guys that were here, but you know, being one of them I wouldn’t mind having that alligator in my office,” Craig says.

The assumption is that someone kept the alligator as a pet and when it got too big they dumped it, but 24 years later no one knows for sure.

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